Rugby Union: Irish back on track

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The Independent Online
London Irish 35

London Scottish 12

ON THE FIELD, Celtic accents may have been at a premium but London Irish none the less delighted as much in exacting swift revenge for Ireland's Five Nations defeat by Scotland as in boosting their prospects of European qualification.

Captain Conor O'Shea had expressed his determination to make immediate amends for his nation's Murrayfield misery and made good his intentions with four mammoth kicks in his team's conclusive victory. His fellow international, Justin Bishop, had obviously taken the field in similar mood, his elusive running proving a key influence on the building of a match-winning lead as he switched inside to hunt the possession denied him on the Test stage.

Bishop's ability to break cover helped create the penalty chances with which Irish got off the mark through Jarrod Cunningham, who proved an ideal replacement for the injured goal-kicker Niall Woods.

O'Shea then took his turn to land his first kick from almost half-way before a superb pass by Kevin Putt created the game's first try. Just as an Irish attack appeared to be heading down one cul-de-sac too many, the South African's hand speed sent Cunningham looping through midfield. Nick Harvey took play on and unloaded for Rob Gallacher to crash over at the posts.

London Scottish hit back with a Jannie de Beer penalty that sparked an exchange of three-pointers, a further effort from the former Springbok sandwiching successful shots from Cunningham and O'Shea, but the visitors could do little to knock the Irish out of their stride. O'Shea emphasised his team's dominance by attempting a cheeky long range drop goal but, although another Cunningham penalty extended their lead soon after the break, the Irish had to adopt a less frivolous approach to keep the Scots at arm's length.

De Beer showed O'Shea how to drop goals with one perfectly flighted effort but Irish had the final word when Cunningham's pass created an overlap for replacement Richard Kirke to score. The conversion being from the touch-line, O'Shea naturally kicked the extra points.

London Irish: C O'Shea (capt); J Bishop, N Burrows, B Venter, J Cunningham; S Bachop (J Brown, 79), K Putt; N Hatley (P Rogers, 77), M Howe (R Kirke, 50), R Hardwick (K Fullman, 67), R Strudwick, N Harvey, J Boer, K Spicer, R Gallacher.

London Scottish: S Binns; K Milligan, J Bonney, R Eriksson (R Davies, 28), C Sharman; J de Beer, G Easterby; P Johnstone (C Johnston, 68), D Rudham (D Cummins 68), P Burnell, E Jones (G Manson-Bishop, 72), M Watson, S Fenn (T Davies, 54), R Hunter, S Holmes (I McAusland 77).

Referee: S Piercy (Yorkshire).

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